HC Deb 25 March 1858 vol 149 cc783-5

said, he rose to call the attention of the House to the collection of agricultural statistics in Scotland, and to move for papers relative thereto. In common with all who had ever looked into these matters, he was anxious to acknowledge the value of the statistics which had been collected by the Highland Society, and the great services which that valuable society and its popular secretary had thus rendered to the country, still he must express his conviction that the only fact which was really valuable, or could properly be made the subject of a statistical inquiry of this kind was, the acreage of the different crops. The produce was a matter of opinion, and was not a proper subject of statistics. While this was the case, the cost of the latter part of the inquiry was three times that of the former. He therefore suggested to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade that, in future, the inquiries should be directed only to ascertaining the acreage of the different crops. If that were done, he hoped that the Highland Society and their secretary would again undertake the inquiry; but if they refused to do so, in consequence of their difference with the Treasury and the Board of Audit, the Government would itself easily carry out the work. The hon. Member concluded with a formal Motion for papers.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That there be laid before this House, further Papers relative to Agricultural Statistics in Scotland."


said, that one of the lead- ing farmers in Scotland had informed him that, neither under the Highland Society nor under the Government, would the farmers continue to make the returns.


said, that he did not believe that the agricultural statistics in Scotland had been of any use whatever, nor did he think that they would be one whit more valuable in the restricted form suggested by the hon. Member for Dartmouth. He wanted to know how a farmer could tell, by the number of acres laid down, the quantity of produce that there would be in the kingdom; and it must he remembered that, unless the returns were made very early, they were of no use. He wished it to go forth that the general opinion of the people of Scotland was, that these returns were of no value, and he hoped that the Government would deliberate long before they acceded to the Motion. He was of opinion that, in their dispute with the Highland Society, the Government—although they might be technically right—were substantially wrong.


said, that in reply to the last speaker, he would refer to a Resolution agreed to at a meeting of practical farmers in Scotland, to the effect that a reliable system of agricultural statistics, such as that devised and carried out by Mr. Hall Maxwell, under the auspices of the Highland Society, was of great national importance, being viewed with interest by the public generally, and by agriculturists in particular.


said, he had no objection to produce the returns moved for by the hon. Member for Dartmouth; but he believed the answer to the Motion would be nil—for, after the best inquiry he could make, he found that there were no other papers than those already in the possession of the House. What had passed in the House that evening was not calculated to encourage him to move in the matter of agricultural statistics as far as Scotland was concerned, particularly under the irritation which existed in that country with respect to the dispute between the Government and the Highland Society. The Bill of the hon. Member for Dartmouth (Mr. Caird) relative to the collection of agricultural statistics in England would have to be considered after Easter, and when he saw the reception accorded to that measure, and how far the machinery proposed by the hon. Member was likely to effect its purpose, it would be his duty to consider what course ought to be adopted with reference to Scotland.


briefly replied, insisting upon the utility of the Scotch agricultural statistics, particularly as showing the variations in the acreage from year to year, and stating that he believed the farmers would continue their co-operation as heretofore, provided the Government adopted the same machinery which had already proved so successful in Scotland.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.